Tag Archives: Kate Dickie

Evil Takes Many Forms

A few nights ago I finally got around the watching a movie that’s been on my to-watch list for a while, the 2016 feature-length debut from writer / director Robert Eggers, “The Witch”.

Ralph Ineson

Subtitled as a “New-England Folktale”, the film begins in 1630 with a scene in which William (Ralph Ineson – “Case Sensitive”, “The Office”) is appearing before the elders of the Puritan plantation on which he and his family live, as he has a fundamental difference of opinion over interpretation of the biblical text by which they live their lives.

Kate Dickie

William, his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie – “Midwinter Of The Spirit”, “Prometheus”) and their four children are banished from the plantation and set off to make their lives on a farm near the edge of a large forest some distance from the plantation.

Anya Taylor-Joy

Eldest child Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy – “Split”, Morgan”) is struggling with the demands of the family’s faith but determined to do the right thing. One day she is playing peek-a-boo outside with Katherine’s new baby Samuel when he suddenly disappears. We, the viewer, then see the baby’s body being used by a witch to make a flying ointment. Katherine is devastated and clearly feels that Thomasin is at least partly to blame for Samuel’s disappearance.

Ellie Grainger & Lucas Dawson With Black Phillip

The young twins Mercy (Ellie Grainger – “The Village”) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) claim that the family’s goat, Black Phillip, speaks to them and they take next to no notice of instructions given by their elder sister, increasing her inner torment.

Harvey Scrimshaw

The parents discuss sending Thomasin away to work for another family as she approaches woman-hood and the farm’s crops fail once again, a conversation overhead by their daughter and her younger brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw – “Oranges And Sunshine”). This leads Caleb to set off in the early hours into the forest in an attempt to hunt for food so that Thomasin won’t have to leave. She goes with him but falls from the horse when Caleb rushes off after a hare and is knocked out.

Sarah Stephens

Deep in the forest Caleb spots a small hut and when he approaches is met by an attractive young woman (model Sarah Stephens) who proves to be a witch, and maybe not as attractive as she first seems. When Thomasin reawakens she manages to find her father but, though they search, there is no sign of Caleb.

Black Phillip

Katherine takes this as further proof that Thomasin is evil, and when Caleb returns, naked and barely conscious, her impression is further strengthened when the young twins, Mercy and Jonas, tell their mother than Thomasin had claimed to be a witch. Thomasin counter-claims that the twins speak with Black Phillip. William responds by locking the three children, along with the goat, in the stable for the night, intending that the family should return to the plantation the next day. However, with all kinds of weird and violent events unfolding thereafter what will become of the family?…

The Witch

I’ve probably said too much already, but I really can’t go too much further into the story without definitely giving too much away. Suffice it to say that this is a pretty decent film. The cinematography gives the whole thing a suitably bleak feel, given the hard times that William’s family are enduring, and it all feels nicely atmospheric too.

Anya Taylor-Joy

The ending of the movie felt a little strange at the time of viewing, but a subsequent read of this article helped to make more sense of things – though it’s best read after viewing the movie! Taylor-Joy and Ineson, in particular, were excellent in their roles but all of the small cast are very good.

The Witch

The dialogue and religious aspect of the film felt realistic for the period of history in which it is set, when witch trials and executions were happening in New England and indeed the end titles claim that much of the dialogue is based upon real diaries and court transcripts etc. from that time, throwing light on the effects of a strict religious lifestyle mixed with the superstition of the age.

Overall, I thought “The Witch” was an intense, gripping, spooky and indeed thought-provoking way to spend an hour and a half – a well recommended movie to lovers of folk horror…

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Midwinter Of The Spirit

Recently my wife and I watched a three-part ITV adaptation of Phil Rickman‘s second Merrily Watkins novel “Midwinter Of The Spirit”.

dvd

I believe that the TV people chose this book to start a potential series with as it was the book in which Merrily first got involved in exorcism – or deliverance as it’s termed here – giving opportunity for a nice paranormal drama.

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Phil Rickman – Midwinter Of The Spirit

The synopsis for the novel reads as follows : “They’ll follow you home… breathe down your phone at night… a prime target for every psychotic grinder of the dark satanic mills that ever sacrificed a chicken…’

Diocesan Exorcist: a job viewed by the Church of England with such extreme suspicion that they changed the name.

It’s Deliverance Consultant now. Still, it seems, no job for a woman. But when the Bishop offers it to Merrily Watkins, parish priest and single mum, she’s in no position to refuse.

It starts badly for Merrily and gets no easier. As an early winter slices through the old city of Hereford, a body is found in the River Wye, an ancient church is desecrated and signs of evil appear in the cathedral itself, where the tomb of a medieval saint lies in pieces.”

Now, I believe that I have previously mentioned that I have yet to read the early books in the series so I cannot directly compare the source novel with the TV version. I can, however, comment on the TV series as a standalone piece of work and also my observations with regards to characters that I do know through the books in the series that I have read.

Simon Trinder & Kate Dickie
Simon Trinder & Kate Dickie

The series opens with a dead man, wearing a crown of barbed-wire, strung up in a crucifixion pose in trees in rural Herefordshire. Police detective DS Francis Bliss (Simon Trinder – “Anton Chekhov’s The Duel”) is investigating with his boss DCI Annie Howe (Kate Dickie – “Red Road”, “Filth”) and they decide to ask advice from a religious expert – enter Merrily Watkins.

Anna Maxwell Martin & David Threlfall
Anna Maxwell Martin & David Threlfall

Merrily (Anna Maxwell Martin – “Philomena”, “Becoming Jane”) is on a course to become a deliverance specialist for the church, seemingly much to the displeasure of her tutor Huw Owen (David Threlfall – “Hot Fuzz”, “Shameless”). Before long the pair are immersed in the mystery as the dead man turns out to have been a Satanist and various other dubious characters make their appearances.

Sally Messham & Leila Mimmack
Sally Messham & Leila Mimmack

Meanwhile, Merrily’s troubled teenage daughter Jane (Sally Messham) is befriended by fellow teen Rowenna Napier (Leila Mimmack – “Son Of God”, “High-Rise”), who has troubles of her own. So much so that she has a social worker, Lol Robinson (Ben Bailey Smith – “Hunted”, “Law & Order UK”) assigned to look after her case.

Anna Maxwell Martin
Anna Maxwell Martin

OK, so as a piece of TV I felt that it worked fairly well. My wife, who hadn’t read any of the books had a hard time keeping up with who was who and what their connections to each other were, so I suppose a knowledge of the main characters from having read some of the books was an advantage for me – but many viewers may have felt as my wife did. She did also find the character of Merrily to be irritating with her dithering whilst I thought that was somewhat in keeping with the character I had encountered in Rickman’s books.

Ben Bailey Smith
Ben Bailey Smith

I can’t say that any of those characters looked much like the ones I had developed in my head while reading – I imagine that this is a familiar sensation for anyone seeing a literary character they know making the transition to the screen. I must say though, and I know I’m far from alone in this, that I felt changing the character of Lol from a white folk musician to a black social worker was taking things too far from the source material.

So, despite not having read the specific book, I am confident that the novel is more than likely far superior to the TV adaptation. That said, I did enjoy the programme for what it was and probably would have even more if I could have completely overlooked the obvious character differences…Midwinter-of-the-Spirit-tx-2